Q&A with Srijita "Dia" Ghosh
2017 i2E Love's Cup 2nd Place Winner
Picture: Srijita "Dia" Gosh is pictured with Dr. Stacy Bolin at the i2e 2017 Love's Cup competition.
Srijita Ghosh, who goes by ďDiaĒ for short, recently took second overall in the 2017 i2E Loveís Cup pitch competition in the Small Business Division. We sat down with Dia to learn more about her and her product.
AJF: How did you come to Ada? What brought you to ECU?
D: Thatís an interesting story, [I came] all the way from India to Ada. I was actually on the ECU womenís tennis team, so I came here as a student athlete. I was always in the business school, from the very beginning. So thatís how I came to Ada.
AJF: When you first came to Ada, did you think Ďthis is really different?í Was there culture shock?
D: Well, I have travelled a lot, so it wasnít really the culture shock. However, I did have a different impression, because when I came to the U.S. before in 2010, I was in Florida. So that was really different. But, Iíve travelled a lot. Iíve lived quite a while in Spain. Iíve lived in the U.S. before, so it wasnít that much [of a shock] for me, but definitely it was not what I expected.
AJF: When do you graduate?
D: In December. Iím a senior, I just turned a senior this [Spring] Semester.
AJF: And what do you plan to do when you graduate?
D: My major is in business management, and Iím doing three certificatesóhuman resource, banking, and entrepreneurship. So my area is really broad, but I want to work for a year or so after I graduate in the U.S. For internationals we have this thing called the OPT where we get a working visa for a year, and then I plan to pursue my MBA.
AJF: Do you think youíre going to stay in Ada [for the MBA program] or are you looking at other programs?
D: We just had the program open up [at ECU], and itís really good. Itís definitely on my list. However, I always had a dream since I was really young to do my MBA at Stanford, and I know that is a big, big, big dream. That is definitely on my list.
AJF: Letís talk about the product. So you said you had the idea after some of your friendsÖ
D: So what happened was last semester, I was taking a class with Dr. Bolin. It was called ďIntroduction to Entrepreneurship.Ē She just told us, Ďcome up with a problem, think of a solution, and thatís how you get your product.í And just somehow, the first thing was this thing came to my head. I didnít know the name at that time, but immediately I thought of something to help patients who have panic attacks. Iíve witnessed my own friends [having panic attacks]. So, that was the problem I wanted to solve. And also I suffer from low levels of anxiety, and I was not even aware of that. I was interviewing our school psychology professor, and sheís known me since my freshman semester. And I was asking a question, just like youíre asking me questions right now. I was interviewing her for my project and all of a sudden, she turned the tables and she started asking me questions. And she pointed out how I came up with this idea, because I myself suffer from anxiety and my brain subconsciously came up with the solution. So that was pretty cool.
AJF: I know what your product does, but if you could say it again: What exactly is StoPanic?
StoPanic is a device which can be bought over the counter at pharmacies or online. It resembles a hearing aid that is designed to help people to overcome panic attacks by playing calming music when it detects certain physiological changes.
AJF: Very cool, and youíre still developing this technology, correct?
D: Yes. Basically, the technology is already out there, but weíre putting it into one thing. And then weíre just bringing them together.
AJF: And so thereís still going to be some R&D, it sounds like?
D: Definitely, yes.
AJF: So is that the next stage where you want to take this business?
D: Yes, actually finals are coming up, but Dr. Bolin and I are restarting the process to get my product patented. Hopefully with the funds that I won from the competition, that will be enough, because patents are expensive. So thatís the first step. And then Iím going to start and move to the development process so we can actually do some product testing.
AJF: So have you attracted any investment interest?
D: Iím still looking. Iíve had so many people interested in my idea, honestly that day when I did my pitch at the awards in OKC [at the i2E Loveís Cup], and also at the ECU School of Business Banquet, I did [my pitch] there again. And I had like 20 people come up to me, and they were all in good business positions. And they talked to me about my product and how much they were interested. But, I havenít got an official offer yet, and Iím really looking out.
AJF: You said you might work for a year. Is this something you hope to continue developing while youíre working somewhere?
D: Definitely, if I have the opportunity. Like I said, my dream is to go to Stanford and you need to have something to get in there, because I canít afford to go there so I need to be on a scholarship. I have a 4.0, but thatís not enough to get in there, and I have to have something. And I believe StoPanic is my ticket into Stanford, and not just that. I have a big vision for it, and I want to go ahead and work with StoPanic.
AJF: Do you see yourself as hoping to continue to develop businesses and products and ideas after StoPanic?
D: Iíve heard of the term ďSerial Entrepreneur,Ē and I see that in myself. My parents are both into business, and my mom is just about to start her own business. So these things, Iíve just seen them from a very young age, just progress and growth. So I definitely see myself there. And once maybe Iíve developed and worked with StoPanic, I hope that I can use my success with StoPanic to fund additional startups and continue to build my portfolio.
AJF: We want to help develop local entrepreneurs and we see it as a really crucial thing that we have people that develop new technology and think about new things in Ada. What are two or three things that Ada could be doing to help you as an entrepreneur in Ada? What would you want to see here?
D: Thanks to Dr. Bolin, Iíve connected to a lot of individuals in the community thatís given me great feedback. And thatís one the things that Iíve received. Something more would probably be real life experience. Studying textbooks is very different from real life experience. So maybe conferences and workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs like us. And also, I think itís very important to start early, so not just seniors and juniors, but even sophomores and freshmen. So they all need to get the idea that they are capable. Because we mostly donít take them seriously, to be very honest, but we should because thatís where theyíre going and we need to work with them.
AJF: Another thing weíve talking about is creating spaces to support people who are interested in entrepreneurship. Weíve talked about coworking spaces. Weíve talked about design labs. If there is a space like that in Ada, where you could work on your business part-time would that be a good thing?
D: Yes. Honestly, I agree with that. Like in our school, we had a 3d printer in the education building, and I didnít even know about it. Dr. Bolin told me, and then [for] my prototype, my friend Garrett Stacey who was helping me with the design and everything, we spoke to the 3d printer people. So if you can have all those things in one place then I can meet someone else who has a great idea. Itís always great minds that get together and talk, and I think it would be a great idea.
Also, entrepreneurship is of course very business oriented, but I feel like students from other schools, like maybe, I donít know, psychology or theater, I think they would be interested as well. They wonít think itís just a business thing, because entrepreneurship really is not. You can come up with a product as a non-business student and you can have a team of business people to help you with the business side of things. Like with the example of Miranda [McNabb]. Sheís a theater major, and she has such a great mind. She previously won this [i2E Governorís Cup Pitch Competition] award. Just using her example, I think we can open it up more.
AJF: Since youíre from India, what could Ada do to attract foreign-born entrepreneurs to a place like Ada?
D: Honestly, I think Ada is a very welcoming and warm town, and I really appreciate that. We have a large number of international students in ECU. And actually, Iím the right person to ask, because Iím the president of the International Student Club at ECU [laughing], so I can kind of speak on behalf of everyone. That is something that is really good.
What more that can be done is, if you can take interest in international issues, maybe a project or a service project or even a business kind of project that has an international aspect to it, that will definitely create more interest for us to participate and also feel like we are cared for. Thatís something we do in ECU Rotaract a lot, twin clubs with an international Rotaract, so we work together which is benefiting the community in Ada as well as far, far away, like in India.
Iím very passionate about service. I believe in service towards the community, so I always look for opportunities or ways to combine service. Like for example, StoPanic is a device where I want to make money off it, but itís helping, itís for a cause, itís for mental health. Thatís something thatís dear to me.
AJF: When you talk to business students here, do you get the sense that the ability to do some kind of social good is important to them?
D: I think this
generation is actually automatically getting there, like CSR is just so big
these days. So I think itís already
developing, and whenever our professors teach us, they should emphasize on it
more, so we [can] just learn itís something we need and should do